Personality clash between fiery Rebel commanders comes to a head during the trek to Gettysburg

About 6 feet tall, with blue eyes and a “large strong face,” George V. Moody always made an impression, whether in court or battle. A former commander favorably compared his “carriage & general appearance” to Robert E. Lee’s. (Eric D. Rivenbark)

George Vernon Moody, a 26-year-old native of Maine, graduated from the prestigious Harvard Law School in 1842. Degree in hand, he promptly headed to Port Gibson, Miss., to join his younger brother, a successful druggist in the Mississippi River town. The elder Moody secured office space across from the Claiborne County Courthouse and in the almost two decades that followed accrued a reputation as a forceful presence in the courtroom—fiery behavior that at one point provoked six locals enough to attempt to assassinate him. Chased through town, Moody somehow managed to evade their shotgun blasts by racing through several local businesses and churches that lined Port Gibson’s picturesque roadways.

When Mississippi and neighboring Louisiana seceded from the Union in January 1861, the 45-year-old Moody decided to try his hand as a soldier, organizing an infantry company from Port Gibson and parishes across the river in Louisiana. Many of the men who signed up were Irish immigrants who were provided both a bonus for enlisting and a monthly source of income.

Once assembled, the company embarked on a long, winding train ride to Lynchburg, Va., where it was officially mustered into Confederate service. On August 23, Moody’s unit was transferred to the artillery and, in recognition of the men’s Irish roots, took the name Madison (La.) Light Tipperarys Battery. Transferred to the state fairgrounds in Richmond to complete their organization, the “Light Tips,” as they became better known, began training with two 12-pounder howitzers, two 3-inch rifles, and two 6-pounder smoothbores.

Not far away in Hanover and surrounding Virginia counties, another temperamental personality began raising a company of infantry in May 1861: Captain Pichegru Woolfolk Jr., a 6-foot-tall, dark-haired 30-year-old, already regarded as an expert drillmaster. Woolfolk was generally known as “jolly, careless, hospitable, sociable, and always fond of a laugh,” though other characteristics clearly offset his youthful vigor. While “fearless in the face of danger,” he was also “high-strung.“ The captain was also apparently selective with whom he added to his ranks. As one man would write, “I tride to enlist[,] but they told me I was too small and too young.”

Lacking the required number of men for his unit—named the Ashland Light Artillery in July—Woolfolk continued his recruiting efforts until the end of the year. In addition to providing a bounty, he would take each man to a tailor to be fitted for his uniform. The battery achieved sufficient manpower by September but remained underequipped—lacking small arms and harnesses—and in need of more overall training. 

Training with the weapons lasted six weeks. In February 1862, Woolfolk’s unit was sent to Manassas Junction, a 75-mile venture that took 10 days because of mud-caked roadways. “[W]ell at that time in Virginia,” a gunner recalled, “it rains a great deal and we [saw] mud worse than any Nebraska mud you ever saw. It was almost impossible to get feed for the men and horses (Sometimes we had to cut down trees about 6 inch through and put them across the mud places so as to get through with the Cannon). We staid at Manassas 2 or three weeks.”

Posted near the Dunker Church at Antietam, gunners in Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s Battalion, which included both Moody’s and Woolfolk’s batteries, unload on approaching Federals. (Mark Maritato/Bridgeman Images)


Posted near the Dunker Church at Antietam, gunners in Colonel Stephen D. Lee’s Battalion, which included both Moody’s and Woolfolk’s batteries, unload on approaching Federals. (Mark Maritato/Bridgeman Images)

(Mark Maritato/Bridgeman Images)